Applause and cheers erupted from the stands of Harmon Field as Dalton Education Foundation Trustee Bob Bethel presented the 31st annual Tom Jones Educator of the Year Award to Pam Massingale, assistant principal at Morris Innovative High School, during halftime of the first Dalton High School football game.
Her family joined her on the field after the announcement. Massingale received a crystal apple and a check for $3,000. MIHS will also receive $1,000 as a part of the grant.
"I am just speechless, and that is unusual for me. I love Dalton Public Schools, and I am honored," said Massingale after receiving the award. "I am humbled. I'm in shock. There are so many people who deserve this more than I do. I am honored to stand with them."
The Tom Jones Educator Award recognizes educators in Dalton Public Schools who have made significant contributions in the education of children in Dalton and who symbolize excellence in teaching. Candidates are chosen based on their relationship with students, accomplishments, relationship with parents and their relationship with the community.
"In my many years in education, I do not think I have ever worked with anyone who cared more about her 'children' (students) than does Ms. Massingale," said DPS Interim Superintendent Don Amonett. "Everything that she does is done so with the primary intent of trying to improve learning opportunities for her students. This has been true in every position that I have seen her work (special education teacher, Director of Northstar, and Assistant Principal.)"
Massingale's list of accomplishments is impressive. As an educator for 30 years, she has worked tirelessly to ensure her students and their families' needs are met, going above and beyond the line of duty to do so. To say she has attended doctor's appointments, funerals, home visits, weddings and births of children from former students only scratches the surface.
She designed and implemented a BLOCK party at MIHS to give parents, students and the community a way to meet the staff without the intimidation of a traditional conference. As an ESS Lead Teacher at MIHS, she implemented a Case Management Review day once a month to allow all case managers to meet with the students on their caseload, giving them time to build relationships and let the student know there was someone on their side.
She has served as a liaison for the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization, designing and implementing a mentoring program through MIHS's Newcomer Academy. She has taken student groups to the local senior citizen center so they could interview the residents and write their stories as an authentic learning experience. Mrs. Massingale's goal is to empower her students through tight community and strong relationships.
"In my current position as assistant principal, I have the opportunity to meet with students on a daily basis. I have an open door policy, allowing students to come into my office to discuss their grades, credits and sometimes just to talk about the challenges in their life space," said Massingale. "I try to learn every student's name and a little something about their family. My goal is to build trust and create a positive, caring learning environment."
According to her daughter, Rachel Massingale, Mrs. Massingale has an uncanny ability to see people where they are, see the needs they cannot articulate and meet the need with grace and passion. "I've never seen anyone as willing and ready to do whatever it takes to reach out to others as my mother," she said. "She has this way of making everyone feel welcome, valued and important. She listens to parents, communicates with them as openly and kindly as possible, and she honors their role of authority in their child's life. Even in delivering mattresses to a student's family who had nothing, she somehow - even in addressing their neediness - has a way of simultaneously restoring their dignity and empowering them."
The award is named in memory of Mr. Tom Jones, a prominent Dalton businessman who served on the Dalton Board of Education for 26 years and was chairman from 1967 to 1986. The award was started in 1987. Jones, who was the co-founder of J+J Flooring Group, was a native of Dalton and a product of Dalton Public Schools.